February 25, 2010
In his article, Brendon Larson discusses the use of “militaristic” rhetoric to describe the issue of invasive species. Larson argues that the use of metaphor misleads the public, and even scientists, into a false perception of the invasive species issue and how to effectively deal with it.
For example, a recent article in Time – entitled “Asian Carp in the Great Lakes? This Means War!” – proves Larson’s point. In addition to the title, language such as “infiltrating a new home,” or “eradicate them after the fact” (Walsh, 2010) compares the idea of invasive species to an enemy that must be defeated in war. I agree with Larson that this kind of rhetoric leads us to think that a “brute force” approach is the only way to deal with the invasive species problem – which is problematic because this kind of approach is usually the least cost-effective and successful. However, I think that there is some use to this kind of rhetoric. The metaphor is necessary for the public to understand the issue of invasive species. Especially in a popular magazine such as Time, overly scientific language would not be of any use to the general reader.
Larson, 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Walsh, 2010. “Asian Carp in the Great Lakes? This Means War!”. Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1962108,00.html
February 24, 2010
The scientific community’s use of militaristic rhetoric as a metaphor to describe invasive species has recently come under fire. According to these accusations militaristic rhetoric causes inaccurate perceptions of invasive species, xenophobia, and ultimately undermines the goals of the conservation movement. Militaristic rhetoric undoubtedly plays a large role in the communication of invasive species problems to the public. For example, a recent news of the week article published in Science uses three militaristic words or phases within the first two sentences. “With Asian carp poised to invade Lake Michigan, wildlife managers are urgently trying to figure out how many of the voracious 1.5-meter- long fish have already slipped past electric fish barriers in a waterway near Chicago—and they are now scrambling to shore up defenses. A new plan, released by federal agencies and other groups last week, aims to improve coordination among agencies dealing with the immediate threat and divvies up $78.5 million for control and research” (Stokstad, 2010). Use of such language has been deemed “problematic” and “ineffective”; however, critics fail to provide a sufficient replacement for the militaristic metaphor. Examining the use of militaristic rhetoric within the context of scientific writing reveals that it effectively conveys both the scope and urgency of the Asian carp invasion to both the scientific community and the general public. Nothing in the passage suggests that the problem is direr than the reality, nor does it promote xenophobia or undermine the conservation movement. Rather, the militaristic metaphor advances the conservation movement in that it places complex scientific problems into a generally understood light. In the absence of a sufficient replacement for the militaristic metaphor, critics of this rhetoric are left at best with a very weak case. As the scientific community’s understanding of invasives grows, perhaps the metaphors used to describe them will too. In the meantime, an old cliché best describes the issue—if it isn’t broken, don’t’ break it.
February 24, 2010
Militaristic Metaphors: The Battle Cry of Invasive Species
By Emily Chang
In his paper, Larson discusses the impact of employing militaristic language to describe invasive species. He talks about how words such as “battle” and “strategy” appear in scientific writing with regard to invasive species, and he asserts that belligerent metaphors should be used cautiously – if, at all – with invasion biology. Then, Larson identifies two major faults in using such rhetoric. The first is that people should not picture themselves as waging a war with invasive species when human activity often has contributed to the spreading and cementing of foreign organisms in their victim environments. In addition, people cannot triumph over invasive species in this supposed “war” because the circumstances surrounding the invasions are generally too complex for a clear-cut solution. Also, Larson states that militaristic metaphors can lose their potency from overuse and can cause anti-xenophobic outcries from people.
I found the following quote from a primary source for my literature review on Eurasian watermilfoil that is considering a weevil species as a means of biocontrol:
“A variety of chemical and physical methods are being used to control M. spicatum infestations….These methods can provide short-term reductions in the extent of aquatic weeds, but neither eradicate them nor provide long-term control.” (Sheldon and Creed 1995)
This quote includes the word “eradicate,” which gives it a militaristic mood. Prior to reading the Larson article, I had not realized that eradication was a militaristic term, for I had seen it in several articles that I had read for my literature review. I believe that I have probably read it in other students’ blog posts or in previous readings about invasive species as well. Because I was so used to seeing this word used with invasive species, I had become accustomed to this militaristic style of depicting species invasions. Therefore, I must agree with Larson on his point about overusing belligerent words and phrases. The excessive use of militaristic metaphors in invasion biology diminishes the effect of such language; the more people see such words used in this manner, the less affective this rhetoric will be. I believe that scientists should employ alternative words and phrasings in their writing to discuss invasive species – particularly those that are more scientific and precise and less descriptive. Perhaps this can ensure that people note the importance of invasion biology on various environments, organisms, and aspects of human life.
Creed, Robert P., Jr. and Sallie P. Sheldon. 1995. Use of a Native Insect as a Biological Control for an Introduced Weed. Ecological Applications 5: 1122-1132.
Larson, B. M. H. 2005. The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 3: 495-500.
February 24, 2010
In his paper entitled “The war of the roses: demilitarizing invasion biology:, Brendon MH Larson argues that militaristic language used in invasive species articles to invoke a response in the reader can actually have negative effects. He claims that these metaphors contribute to public misunderstanding of invasive species, and that they support militaristic ways of thinking that make it hard to create a sustainable relationship between humans and the natural world. According to Larson, the problem with militaristic language relies on two fundamental facts about war. 1) A war requires opposing sides. 2) Wars are fought with the belief that good will triumph over evil. These assumptions are leading the public to have a misconstrued view of invasive species. They can also have a boomerang effect, where the readers have the opposite reaction to the language than is intended.
“Currently, the Australian government is preparing to spend between five and seven million dollars over the next 15 years to combat the cane toads…The economic loss resulting from the disturbance and destruction caused by invasive species is huge.” (Butler 2005). This quote is from author Tina Butler, a writer for an online newspaper, who comments about the importance of the elimination of cane toads from Australian ecosystems.
Although Larson raises a few valid points, I have to disagree with his argument. Militaristic language has inspired people to act and take up the “fight” in whatever they believe in for centuries. It’s psychological that more vivid and intense language will influence people’s opinions and possibly lead them to acting on them. I don’t think that the use of militaristic language is problematic nor is it ineffective. These metaphors do not incite riots or violence, but rather they convey the importance of the eradication and removal of invasive species and how large of an effect they have on the general public. Militaristic language is absolutely necessary to gain support from readers and to convince the general public that something must be done.
Butler, Tina. “Overstaying Their Welcome: Cane Toads In Australia.” Mongabay. http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0417b-tina_butler.html. Viewed February 23, 2010.